Talking of which, Maria Sharapova is back in town. An amazon beauty, we saw her one morning, jogging along the busy Ridgway with her trainer - she was not trying to hide, that's for sure. Bumped into Pete Sampras at Blockbusters once, too - got his autograph, but he didn't look up. The best, though, was when my daughter came home from her school tennis courts, and told me about how, "Yana came and said hello to all of us, mummy". The divine Jana Novotna, famous for her tears at losing in the final, had come off the practice courts and introduced herself to every little girl. How we cried when she finally triumphed that year. Oh, the stardust rubs off, I can tell you.
It's the year of the strawberry this year, there's no doubt. I don't eat them generally, but really, they are as sweet as I've ever had them. The early (long-forgotten) sunshine has made for the best harvest in living memory (I made that up, actually). But it is true that this year, halved, sprinkled with balsamic vinegar and possibly a little bit of demerara for the crunch, they are a seriously sophisticated and memorable treat.
And not only that. The asparagus is too too divine. We're mostly having it cold with a spoon of home-made mayonnaise (home being Waitrose, in this case). But this evening I plan to do a very early favourite of mine: asparagus soup, and definitely having it cold.
So: a bunch of fresh asparagus, hard bits cut off, tips kept for garnish. One onion, or a few spring onions chopped and very gently sauted in plenty butter. Jamie adds celery and leeks to the onion, but then he also serves it hot. When the onion is quite soft, add the chopped asparagus. Cover and cook a bit more, then add just under a litre of chicken stock. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently until very tender. Whizz. Add more seasoning to taste (using white pepper if you're a bit... you know) and stir in a nice big glug of double cream. Add the tips and heat gently for a few more minutes to tenderize. Take off the heat, then when it's cool, chill. I adore a cold soup, and you can chop almost anything green on top. Maybe a squirt of lemon?
But how about this from James Martin: the Jersey Royal potatoes are heavenly at the moment too, so chop a few (left-over) cooked potatoes into hot oil, along with some of the fresh asparagus tips, when just cooked and crispy, take off the heat and add chopped watercress and chives. Season. Divide into four bowls and pour the hot soup gently around, just like a top chef.
On the other hand, Jamie would put a softly poached egg on toasted ciabatta, breaking the yolk just as you slip it into the hot velvety soup..... I can't choose!!